Despite being outside of the top 70 in terms of largest countries by land area, Italy is one of the five most-visited countries in the world with more than 50 million annual visitors. There are plenty of reasons why people travel to Italy between the food, people, history, and much more. Because of the high concentration of tourists, Italy can also be one of the more expensive countries to visit.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. If you’ve always wanted to visit Italy but have been afraid about draining your bank account, we’re here to help. Here are five essential tips to follow if you want to visit Italy on a budget.
Pick the Right Airport and Time
If you want to save the most money on your trip to Italy, then there are certain times of the year that will save you hundreds. It can get rather cold in Italy during January and February, and the lack of holidays during these months makes them the cheapest. The good news is that Italy, on average, doesn’t get as cold during the winter months as other parts of the world. The average high during January and February is between 52 and 55 Fahrenheit while the lows are typically around 37 degrees.
Certain airports are also cheaper to fly to than others. If you’re adamant about having a direct flight from the United States to Italy, the only airports that can get you there nonstop are JFK (New York City), Newark (New Jersey), and Hartsfield-Jackson (Atlanta). You can save money by taking a flight that has a connector, with Bologna and Milan being the cheapest airports to fly into.
Ride the Rails
If you’re a big fan of public transportation that works incredibly well, then you’ll be in awe of how efficient it is in Italy. With over 15,000 miles of rail in Italy, no city is going to be difficult or expensive to get to no matter which airport you fly into. Eurail and InterRail offer services throughout Italy, and you don’t have to get the international pass that’s offered by the services.
Instead, you can opt for a much cheaper option that allows you to travel throughout Italy, and it’s best to get a prepaid pass that allows you unlimited rides for a certain amount of days. City-to-city tickets are also available, which end up being the cheapest option if you have a very specific itinerary in mind. For the cheapest rides, you can expect to pay less than 10 Euros to get from one city to another.
Take The Walking Tours
One of the biggest reasons that many of us want to visit Italy is because of the historical architecture and beautiful cities. You can see the best of what Italy has to offer without spending a dime thanks to the walking tours available. Sure, you could walk around cities like Rome or Venice for free, but you could end up getting lost or wasting time by not seeing the best sites of the cities.
Instead, try to book one of the free guided walking tours that are available. Many of these tours are led by those with college degrees in Italian history and architecture, allowing you to get the full experience. To really capitalize on the tours, try to brush up on some Italian so that you can understand what the tour guide is saying while also making sure that you’re getting a legitimate tour.
Stick To Smaller Areas
With Italy being one of the most-visited countries in the world, many of the tourists that make their way to the country settle in large cities like Rome, Milan, Naples, and Turin. With that said, there are plenty of other great small cities and towns to visit that are going to be much cheaper, especially if you use Airbnb or VRBO to rent a home.
Some of the historical and gorgeous smaller areas to visit in Italy include Taormina, Brisighella, Sienna, and Alberobello. There isn’t really a bad place in Italy to visit if you’re trying to take in the history and culture while experiencing some of the best views in the world. In fact, the largest cities are the most dangerous, so you’re also staying safe while saving money.
Avoid Sit-Down Restaurants
If you want to save a few dollars (or Euros) here and there in Italy, try to avoid the sit-down restaurants and instead pick up your food to-go or from a grocery store. That’s because there are tacked-on fees when you sit down to eat. You won’t be expected to tip, which is good, but there are additional fees including paying for tap water.
One charge that you’ll be shocked to see if you’re from out of the country is the coperto. This is typically a 1-5 Euro fee, with some restaurants charging up to 20 Euros per person. This is simply a fee for sitting down and eating in the restaurant, and there is no maximum.